March is going to be an interesting time to be Spider-Man. The Sinister Six are coming back in a major storyline called “Ends of the Earth” (starting in March’s Amazing Spider-Man #682), and it seems like they’re about to earn the fear and respect they’ve been due not just from Spidey but from his allies among the Avengers. In honor of this, I’m going to talk about some of the most major storylines to feature this rotating roster of Spider-Man villains.
The Original Line-up
In 1964, just a year after Spidey got his first solo comic series, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko decided to give his first annual a major battle. Doctor Octopus, having suffered three defeats so far against the Webslinger (back then, he was the number one foe of Spidey), got a bunch of fellow villains together to destroy him. With Mysterio, Kraven, Vulture, Sandman and Electro, he kidnapped Betty Brant (who was Peter Parker’s girl as well as frequent victim of kidnapping back then) and Aunt May (who accidentally got pulled along). The plan? Fight Spider-Man one at a time.
…… Yeah, not the best one. Still, Doc Ock understood that each of them were too proud to not try on their own, so the plan was to wear him down so that finally he could kill a battered Spider-Man at the end of his rope. What was worrisome was that Spidey had lost his powers due to his depression and guilt over Uncle Ben’s death reaching a new high. In other words, Spidey angsted himself into lacking his powers. He managed to get his powers back in time, and engaged in six of the most awesome showdowns in his career. After this, the Sinister Six disbanded and were not heard from for decades.
Return of the Sinister Six
In 1990, during Amazing Spider-Man #334-339, Doctor Octopus decided to reform the Six, planning to use them as his way to finally take over the world (and naturally not share it). Sadly, things changed, as Kraven had committed suicide (meaning his place was taken by Hobgoblin), and Sandman was trying to reform. Blackmailing Sandman by threatening the family he lived with turned out to be a bad move, as Sandman betrayed him and helped Spidey save the day.
Revenge of the Sinister Six
During the dark ages of 90′s comics, Doctor Octopus reorganized the Sinister Six YET AGAIN, this time to steal alien weapons. Sandman was no longer trusted (and Doc Ock turned him to glass for his betrayal), replacing him with Gog, and a bunch of other heroes showed up, and it basically turned into a waste of the characters as a lot of 90′s stories often did.
The Sinister Seven
During the Clone Saga, Hobgoblin brought together Vulture, Beetle, Electro, Scorpia, Mysterio and Shocker, not for a scheme but for protection. Doctor Octopus, alongside Kraven’s son the Grim Hunter, had recently been murdered by the evil Spidey clone named Kaine (that’s an article for another day), and the villains of Spidey felt they needed to stay together to avoid death. In the end, the Seven were defeated by both Kaine and Spidey, with no casualties.
Sandman’s Sinister Six
It was the end of the 90′s, and Spidey comics were not doing so well after everything that was the Clone Saga and its aftermath. Marvel needed to have the hero face his greatest foes for sales, and so Sandman and the second Mysterio (see the Daredevil story Guardian Devil for what happened to him) gathered the new Kraven, Electro, Vulture and Venom to go after Doc Ock (the storyline was possibly the epitome of all that was wrong with the end of the 90′s and its stories). Ironically, the defeat of the new Six came about because they INVITED VENOM, A DANGEROUS ANTI-HERO TO THEIR GROUP.
The Sinister Twelve
Mark Millar was writing the new Marvel Knights: Spider-Man book during its first year, and had already had readers on the edge of their seats with the abduction of Aunt May, Eddie Brock giving up the Venom Symbiote so it was on the loose, and as the run reached its climax, Spider-Man and Black Cat had to break Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin himself, out of jail in order to save Aunt May. Turned out getting Spidey to break out a major criminal was only step one of Osborn’s master plan (since he was responsible for Aunt May’s disappearance). The next step: kill Spider-Man with the Sinister Twelve, a new gathering of villains that Osborn had been funding for this occasion. With Venom (now Mac Gargan, the former Scorpion), Chameleon, Boomerang, Electro, Vulture, Hydro-Man, Sandman, Shocker, Hammerhead, Lizard and Tombstone beating Spidey to death, the Goblin planned to kill Mary Jane in the same way he killed Gwen Stacy. Daredevil, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four showed up (thanks to MJ calling SHIELD for help) and gave one of the coolest battles as Spidey took on Venom and then took down the Green Goblin (if you can, get this arc while it’s still in print).
The latest incarnation of the super villain team (pictured above) has Doc Ock, Chameleon, Rhino, Mysterio, Sandman and Electro, and they’ve been making background appearances during the recent storylines. While they have yet to make their big play, you can bet we’ll discuss it when it finally happens in March.